Bread · Recipes

More Time (and a recipe)

Here we are! It’s nearly the end of March and what a month this has been. This post is kind of all over the place because there are resources I want to share but I also want to share a little personal life for a sense of connection to so many of you! I hope you’re staying healthy and safe and finding the extra time to be a gift. Finding “more” time is something I hear people say they wish they had more of. The bright side of this quarantine is that, more time is exactly what we have.

Time to breathe. Time to reflect on what’s really necessary in our busy lives. Time to give our kids and fur babies extra hugs. Time to get outside and notice that everything is waking up from the winter sleep. Time to connect (virtually) with family and friends. Time to dust off some old board games. Time to do TikToks with our teens (see the video at the end!). Time to clean out a closet or organize a pantry. Time for family room dance parties. Time to admire our kids for adapting to new ways of learning. Time to thank teachers for being creative and dedicated in ways they never imagined they’d have to. Time for driveway basketball and hopscotch games. Time to explore a hike we’ve always wanted to do. Time to figure out how to access and do a home work out. Time to bake and make meals together. Time to wonder what we’ll do when things go back to normal.

Home workouts; cinnamon rolls and coffee; hiking; matcha in my favorite mug (Billy Ritter)

I thought I’d use some of my time to share what we’ve been doing to fill up our days (and a healthy recipe below). This week is Carrie’s spring break and we were planning to go to Florida to visit my mom and get in some sun and beach. This week looks a little different than we planned but we’re trying to make the most of it. We all are and I feel for everyone who’s had to cancel plans or wonder about what the next couple months will bring. My heart goes out to all the health care workers, grocery employees, airline employees and everyone else who must get out there everyday and do their jobs. Thank you! As always, I’m thankful for farmers who continue to do what they do so we have access to healthy food. If you live in NE Ohio, Countryside is launching Countryside Curbside to help with access to local food makers! Creative solutions are everywhere!

Since all of this quarantine came to be, we haven’t really been on a schedule, which is tough for me. I like structure and routine. I actually thrive with structure and routine. I’ve let it all go. No specific wake up time or schedule throughout the day. What I’ve tried to do is have a list of things I’d like to accomplish each day. I’m not getting hung up on specific times. For example, I want to work out, get outside, make meals, connect with a friend or family member, read, play games, tackle a house project and catch up on some shows I’ve wanted to watch. I try to fit all of these in each day but I’m not stressing about it because we all have enough to stress about. If I start to feel antsy, I take Daisy for a walk or pour myself into an online yoga session. How about you? What are you doing to fill your days? Are you finding joy in having time or is it stressful?

Here’s a snapshot of some of our days. Lots of outside time, cuddles, food and games (not pictured–plenty of wine!):

I voted; Daisy Mae keeps me warm; we spotted a beaver at CVNP; beautiful sunset; homemade soft pretzels; photo fun with Carrie (and Jasmine).

Carrie and I did an Instagram Live on St. Patrick’s Day while making cupcakes; hiking in CVNP; playing James Bond (card game); supporting local brands-Masthead and Cleveland Kraut; more hiking in Summit County Metroparks.

Nothing too complicated here. I’m so lucky to have what I need and I hope to be able to share some of that with others throughout this challenging time. I keep supporting local and small businesses and we’re staying home. Carrie, Daisy and I have been home for 14 days (except for voting). Casey had to work and he’s been home for 3 days.

I’ve been baking but not nearly as much as I’d like because there aren’t enough home work outs to burn off the calories I’d consume if I had baked goods within reach 24/7. I don’t have any self control when I’m stuck at home! Also, I’m trying to not blow through all of our ingredients in case we really need them later.

The other day I made a healthier version of banana bread and it has been a nice little treat and thought I’d share it here. It’s not overly sweet and it’s delicious with a smear of nut butter (I love Nosh and they’re offering free shipping across the U.S. with promo code HUNKERDOWN) and a drizzle of honey (Brighton Wool and Honey is one of my favorites). I also love to sprinkle hemp seeds or chia seeds on top. The point is, this bread feels like bread but isn’t full of the carbs and sugar I’m trying to limit. Yay! I’ve also been experimenting more with healthy alternatives to some of my favorite comfort foods and baked goods. This one is a winner!

If you’re on Instagram, the videos are in my highlights. It’s easy, healthy and yummy!

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Friends, I wish you health–physical and mental! We’re all in this and we’ll get through it with kindness, patience and love. Sending you all a BIG virtual hug and hoping you find lots of ways to spend your gift of extra time that bring you joy! Here’s something you might get a laugh out of (gotta love TikTok!):

From the heart,
Shannon

 

 

Recipes · Savory Dishes

Sweet Potato Casserole

The biggest food day of the year is quickly approaching! Hello, Thanksgiving! The best holiday because it’s all about food, family and friends. For some, there’s also football but I’m in it for the food. Some people get stressed out about making “the meal” but I truly enjoy it! It’s the one time of year, I can make some of my family’s favorite dishes and eat all day long.

For the past several years, I’ve been getting as many local ingredients as possible from Countryside. Turkeys, herbs, eggs, flour, veggies, apple cider, breads, cheese–all the Thanksgiving necessities. That’s pretty normal for me all year long but it feels even more meaningful to support our farmers this time of year, as the colder months move in. It feels like one way to show how grateful we are for their hard work and dedication to our food system.

Sweet Potato Casserole is one of my oldest recipes. It’s mostly loved by my daughter, Hannah. I’ve been making this her entire life and it’s her thing at Thanksgiving. I often wonder if she wants to see me on Thanksgiving or just the Sweet Potato Casserole! Hey, a mama’s gotta do whatever she can to bribe, I mean encourage, her kids to come home!

When the big meal is over, Hannah and I have been known to have a serving of this casserole later in the evening just to top off our overly stuffed feeling! I usually make a batch for Thanksgiving and divide additional batches among smaller pans to send home with her.

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It’s really simple and delicious! What makes it super perfect is that it CAN BE MADE AHEAD OF TIME AND STUCK IN THE FREEZER! If you’ve ever made the full Thanksgiving meal, you’re doing a happy dance right now! Seriously, it freezes well and all you have to do on Thanksgiving Day is pop it in the oven! You’re welcome!

This casserole is a sweet potato filling with a pecan brown sugar topping. Start with sweet potatoes, eggs, unsalted butter, vanilla, brown sugar, flour and pecans.

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I’m making a few batches of this so you probably won’t need this many sweet potatoes! A normal recipe calls for about 6 large sweet potatoes. Bake the sweet potatoes until nice and soft and let them cool.

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While they’re baking, make the topping. Combine the brown sugar and flour in a bowl then add the butter and use a pastry cutter to combine.

Chop the pecans. Yes, you can buy chopped pecans or use a food processor to chop pecan halves but I just like the whole process so I go old school and chop pecan halves with a knife. I enjoy it and I want to have nice big pieces! As usual, Daisy Mae had to see what was going on in my photo studio!

Add the chopped pecans to the flour, brown sugar, butter mixture and stir. The good news is that you can make this topping whenever you have time and just keep it stored in an airtight container in the fridge.

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When the sweet potatoes are cool, simply remove the skins and put the orange part in a mixer bowl. Add butter, eggs and a splash of vanilla. Mix it all up until smooth.

Put the whipped mixture into a baking dish. I always use the same white oval dish because it’s the Sweet Potato Casserole dish! As I was filling it up, it dawned on me that I want to freeze this for Thanksgiving but I also want to show you a picture of the final baked casserole.

Enter my white ramekins! I’ve never thought about using these for this casserole but how fun would that be? Especially, for a Friendsgiving! I love how personal and special these make this dish feel! I’m giving an old recipe an update! Woo hoo! That’s the kinda stuff I do!

Oh, the topping! You just sprinkle some on top and, if you’re like me and can’t get enough pecans, add a few more just to make it nice and crunchy and nutty.  All that’s left is to do is bake it! Stick your dish or ramekins in the oven. If the top starts to get too brown, cover with foil.

When you dig into it, the filling is all fluffy and the brown sugar, butter and pecans have caramelized on top. It’s divine! It goes so well with all the other Thanksgiving dishes. I don’t want to play favorites but… it’s the prettiest of them all!

As I said before, I make extra to freeze and send off with Hannah or keep a little for myself to heat up on a cold January night.

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Sweet Potato Casserole is not a new, trendy recipe but it’s one of my family’s most loved traditions for our Thanksgiving feast. I hope you’ll try it and include it in your celebration. Serve it in ramekins or a big baking dish. Either way, your guests will gobble it up and be grateful!

From the heart,
Shannon

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Sweet Potato Casserole
Ingredients
Filling:
6 to 8 large sweet potatoes (baked)
1/2 cup unsalted butter
1 tsp pure vanilla extract
2 large eggs

Topping:
1/2 cup unbleached all-purpose flour
1 cup brown sugar, packed
1/3 cup butter, diced
1 cup chopped pecans

Instructions
Bake sweet potatoes until tender, let them cool then scoop out the flesh into a mixing bowl.

Add butter, eggs and vanilla and mix well.

Pour into a buttered baking dish or ramekins.

Combine flour and brown sugar in a bowl and cut in the butter with a pastry cutter or your hands.

Stir in chopped pecans and sprinkle on top of the filling.

Bake at 350 for 1 hour (larger dish) and 45 minutes for ramekins. Serve warm. It reheats like a dream!

To make ahead and freeze: Do everything except bake it. Once it’s topped, cover your dish with foil and stick it in the freezer.  Allow it to sit in the fridge overnight before you bake it.  Put the dish in the oven while preheating if it’s cold so it doesn’t crack when placed in a hot oven. If the top starts to get too brown, simply cover it with foil while baking. You want the top to be nice and crisp but not burnt! 

Jams, Purees, Sauces · Pumpkin · Recipes

Pumpkin Purée + Roasted Pumpkin Seeds

Last Saturday, I picked up pie pumpkins at Countryside Farmers’ Market. I got some from Martha’s Farm and Log Cabin Organic Farm. Pie pumpkins are smaller and sweeter than carving pumpkins.

When I’m at the market and meet the people who’ve planted, nurtured, harvested and given life to their crops and the earth, I feel compelled to bring that food into my home and savor it. I want to give vegetables and fruits even more life and enjoy all they have to offer in taste and nutrition. It’s important to me and a real blessing to have access to wonderful food. I also believe food should be fresh, simple and easy to prepare.

Homemade pumpkin purée is super easy to make and it tastes better than the stuff you find in stores. You just need a little time, an oven and a food processor or blender to whip up your own puree. Don’t get me wrong, I’ve used my share of canned pumpkin. It’s convenient and most of the organic ones I’ve tried are just fine. We eat a lot of pumpkin goodies in my house and most days there’s no time to make my own. However, sometimes, I’m reminded to slow down, enjoy the harvest and cherish the process of making my own ingredients.

This color alone should be motivation enough for you to make your own pumpkin purée! I use pumpkin in a variety of things: breads, pancakes, waffles, beagle food, lattes, pasta, risotto, cookies, pies, cakes, puddings…you name it and I’ll find a way to incorporate pumpkin!

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It all starts with the pie pumpkins.

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Simply cut the tops off and split them right down the middle.  A nice, sharp knife makes this pretty easy.

Scoop out the seeds and keep them.  We’ll talk about roasting those later!

Daisy Mae smelled pumpkin and came to scope out the situation in the kitchen! Be patient, girl!

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Once all the pumpkins are clean, place them flesh side down on a cookie sheet and add a little water then bake at 375 degrees for about an hour or until a fork pierces through easily.

Once they’re nice and tender, take them out of the oven and let them cool.  Scoop out the meat of the pumpkin and place in a food processor or blender.

Process or blend until smooth. Transfer to jars or containers of your choice. It freezes well!  If you freeze it, just thaw in the fridge when you need it. If you plan to use some right away, it will be just fine in the fridge for about a week.

Homemade pumpkin purée is silky and flavorful. Pumpkin is a great source of potassium and beta-carotene and contains some minerals including calcium and magnesium, as well as vitamins E, C and some B vitamins.

Using ingredients I pick up at the farmers’ market gives me a sense of place in the local food cycle. There’s something special about knowing where it all came from and interacting with the people who worked incredibly hard to produce something so delicious and nutritious. It’s pretty amazing that I get all those good feelings from making pumpkin purée from local pumpkins, huh? I’m such a food geek!

I hope you make this and enjoy the process! Find a market or farm, choose your pumpkins and spend the afternoon getting to know your food and truly appreciate it. See it, feel it, smell it then taste it! I have so many plans for my pumpkin purée and I can’t wait to share them with you! Also, Daisy loves it!

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Don’t forget the seeds, they’re one of the best parts! There’s no easy way to clean them.  Just try to pull out most of the stringy orange pieces and soak the seeds in warm water and keep rinsing/soaking a few times to get them clean. The strings will keep sinking to the bottom. Once they’re all clean, lay them out to dry.

I experimented with three flavors for my seeds:
Sweet: raw wildflower honey + brown sugar + pumpkin pie spice + vanilla
Brighton Wool and Honey’s Raw Wildflower Honey is YUMMY! Don’t get me started on their laundry detergent, bee pollen and soap.  Yeah, they’re just fantastic all the way around!

Spicy: olive oil + spicy blossom honey infused with Carolina Reaper + hubby’s Ghost Pepper salt
This honey from Fuego Spice Co is pretty amazing!

Spicy/Sweet: olive oil + chili powder + brown sugar

I divided the seeds into bowls and used 1 cup of seeds per flavor with 1 TBSP of the oil or honey then added in the sugar and spices. I let them soak for at least an hour then spread on parchment and baked at 375 for 10-15 minutes. Store them in glass containers to keep them crisp. Get creative! You can literally do any kind of spice combination!

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That’s all the pumpkin I’ve got for now! Let me know if you make the purée and what you plan to use it for! Go the extra mile and make the seeds for snacking or, better yet, take a jar to your local farmer!

From the heart,
Shannon

Pumpkin Purée
Ingredients
4-6 pound pie pumpkins
Instructions
1. Cut the tops off the pumpkins
2. Cut the pumpkins in half
3. Scoop out the insides and save the guts
4. Place the pumpkins flesh side down on a baking sheet and add about 1/4 inch of water
5. Bake at 350 for 60-90 minutes, checking periodically after 60 minutes; when a fork pierces through easily, they are finished
6. Let the pumpkins cool and then scoop the meat out into a food processor or blender
7. Process the pumpkin until smooth and transfer to jars or containers
8. Store in the freezer and defrost when needed or keep in the fridge for up to one week

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Bread · Recipes

Zucchini Bread

Yesterday, I went to my favorite farmers’ market, Countryside in Howe Meadow.  After being gone for most of July, I’m back in the swing of things and getting my hands on as much local, summer fruits and veggies as possible!

I’ve always liked zucchini.  Before the days of zoodles, I prepared it all sorts of ways.  I grilled it, baked it and baked WITH it.  It’s versatile and healthy.  Zucchini has a decent amount of potassium and is loaded with vitamin C.  It’s good for your heart!

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Zucchini bread is one of those seasonal indulgences that just feels right about this point in the summer.  Sliced and toasted with good butter or cream cheese. Yum!  While at the market, I picked up a jar of cashew almond butter from my friends at Nosh Butters.  If you haven’t tried their nut butters, I encourage you to partake in their samples the next time you see them at an event.  All of their flavors are delicious as well as vegan, gluten free, and palm oil free.  I’ve been known to hang out with a jar of nut butter and a spoon on occasion and theirs are some of my favorites.  Plus, their business philosophy is right on and it’s another local, small business we can support!

While hanging at their booth at the market, it dawned on me that nut butter would be delicious smeared on zucchini bread.  Yes!  The cashew almond variety is mellow and has just the right texture to slather on some beautiful bread.  I covered up all the pretty green flecks of zucchini before I took this photo.  I promise, they’re in there!

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If you’re loving all the zucchini and looking for ways to bake with it, try this recipe and get some Nosh nut butter to take it over the top! My recipe is light and not weighed down by tons of brown sugar like some of the ones I’ve seen.  You can certainly make this your own by substituting gluten free flour, adding nuts, berries and change the oil type to suit your taste.  This recipe can simply serve as a guide!  🙂

Summer harvest is upon us and I’m digging it!  What are some of your favorite ways to make zucchini?  I’d enjoy hearing new ideas!  Happy baking!

From the heart,
Shannon

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Zucchini Bread
You don’t even need a mixer for this recipe! It can be made in a regular loaf pan, mini loaf pans or a lined muffin tin.  I usually double or triple it and make tons to freeze or hand out to neighbors, friends and local businesses.

Ingredients:
3 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon aluminum free baking powder
1 to 2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
1/3 cup coconut oil melted (or whatever oil you like to bake with)
1 teaspoon grated lemon rind
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
3 large eggs, lightly beaten
1 1/2 cups sugar
3 cups shredded zucchini (12 ounces)
1/4 cup coarsely chopped walnuts, toasted (optional)
Cooking spray

Preparation:
Preheat oven to 350°.
Lightly spoon flour into dry measuring cups; level with a knife. Combine flour and next 4 ingredients (through baking soda) in a large bowl. Combine wet ingredients in a large bowl; add sugar, stirring until combined. Add zucchini; stir until well combined. Add flour mixture; stir just until combined. Stir in walnuts (or fruit) if using.

Divide batter evenly between 2 (8 x 4-inch) loaf pans coated with cooking spray. Bake at 350° for 1 hour or until a wooden pick inserted in center comes out clean. Cool 10 minutes in pans on a wire rack; remove from pans. Cool completely on wire rack.  Adjust baking time depending on what size bread you’re making.

Cake · Recipes

Strawberry Fields and Cake

It’s summer break and we’ve had lots of rain here in NE Ohio.  School’s out and our schedules have shifted nicely to planning days packed with fun and nights that go a little later to allow for a decent amount of hammock time, games and star gazing (and more wine).

One of the many things I love about this time of year is all the fresh, local produce.  It fills me with joy!  A couple weeks ago, we grabbed strawberries from Huffman Fruit Farm at the Countryside Farmers’ Market.  We almost ate all of them before we got home!  All of a sudden, it tasted like summer.  I’ve been making a list of recipes I want to make over the next couple months and Strawberry Chamomile Olive Oil Cake with Honeyed Ricotta (mouthful), was on deck.  I found the recipe on one of my favorite blogger sites, Half Baked Harvest, and I knew it would be amazing! Everything I’ve tried on her site has been simple and yummy.

We decided to pick strawberries at Rittman Orchards and what a fun time!  We took Carrie’s friend and Daisy and started picking.  The weather was perfect and the view was incredible!

I couldn’t wait to get started on making something strawberry!  I made jam ASAP (I’ll share that recipe next) and then prepped everything to get going on the cake.  I’ve never made an olive oil cake before and my daughter, Hannah, and I were talking about making one the next time we’re together.  After making and eating this one, I’ll make an olive oil cake anytime!

This cake is light and refreshing and made me feel happy while I ate it.  It’s not too sweet and just melts in your mouth.  I love the simplicity.  It’s quick and easy to prepare for summer get togethers, brunch, birthdays or the upcoming Father’s Day weekend.  What dad wouldn’t love this?

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It all starts with fresh ingredients.  The cake is easy to prepare and using local eggs makes all the difference.  I used eggs from Mud Run Farm and that color is just what you want for this cake.

Once the cake was in the oven, I steeped chamomile tea bags in local honey from Brighton Wool and Honey.  The sliced strawberries took a dip in the infused honey.

This picture captures the moment nicely.

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Next up, was the honeyed ricotta.  Ricotta with honey and lemon whipped in the food processor until smooth and fluffy.  Easy.

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Did I mention Carrie’s friend slept over?  Here’s a view of our kitchen while I was making cake and breakfast.  This is real life and pictures that usually get posted don’t always share what’s really happening behind the scenes.  I love it! Could there be more going on in that small space?  🙂

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The cake finished baking, the strawberries were soaking and the ricotta was setting up in the fridge.  On our way back from taking Carrie’s friend home, I saw daisies growing on the side of the road and a bunch came home with us.  Some went in a mason jar while others adorned the cake.  So sweet.

I had so much fun putting on the finishing touches and photographing this cake.  It was even more fun to eat and I highly recommend making it! Just look at the inside.  It’s a beautiful color and texture.  I am delighted when baked goods turn out so well!

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As we were eating it, we talked about what we’d change or add.  It would be amazing with blueberries or raspberries!  I liked the ricotta but I think I’d substitute mascarpone next time.  I love the taste and texture of mascarpone and think it would compliment this very well.  You can also do whipped cream but the idea of whipped ricotta or mascarpone make it feel a little more special and unique.  Try it.

I did some research on how to share recipes I’ve found in cookbooks or online.  I made slight changes to the recipe, but not enough to take any credit for it.  Go to Half Baked Harvest to follow it exactly.  While you’re there, try all of her recipes.  She’s amazing and I’m thankful she shares her love of food with us!

This cake is versatile and you can easily modify to make it your own!  Let me know if you make it and how you like it!

From the heart,
Shannon